Why so many conservatives are against Gingrich

Peter Wehner takes up the charge that the conservatives who oppose Newt Gingrich are “establishment” figures who oppose the kind of fundamental change that Gingrich would bring.

If you’re for Gingrich, so goes this story line, you’re for “genuine” and “fundamental” change. If you oppose Gingrich, on the other hand, you’re for “managing the decay” of America.

Except for this. The single most important idea, when it comes to fundamentally changing Washington, is the budget plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan last April. When most massive-scale-of-change conservatives were defending Ryan’s plan against scorching criticisms from the left, Gingrich described the plan as an example of “right-wing social engineering.” It was Gingrich, not the rest of us, who was counseling caution, timidity, and an unwillingness to shape (rather than follow) public opinion. (The Medicare reform plan Gingrich eventually put out wasn’t nearly as bold and far-reaching as the one put out by Governor Romney.)

So much for Mr. Fundamental Change.

The reality is that conservative/”establishment” opposition to Gingrich generally falls into three categories. One is that if he won the nomination, he would not only lose to Barack Obama, but he would sink the rest of the GOP fleet in the process. A second area of concern is that Gingrich is temperamentally unfit to be president –he’s too erratic, undisciplined, and rhetorically self-destructive. A third area of concern is the suspicion that the former House speaker is not, in fact, a terribly reliable conservative, that he is not philosophically well-grounded (see his attachment to Alvin Toffler for more).

Some of these criticisms may be appropriate and some of them may be overstated or miss the mark. But to pretend the criticisms of Gingrich — expressed in varying degrees by commentators like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Charles Murray, Michael Gerson, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Bob Tyrrell, Pat Buchanan, Mona Charen, Mark Steyn, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Bill Bennett, Karl Rove, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rich Lowry, Elliott Abrams, John Podhoretz, John Hinderaker, Jennifer Rubin, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Yuval Levin, and the editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner, to say nothing of a slew of conservative members/former members of Congress who worked with Gingrich in the 1990s –are rooted in their fear of “genuine change” is simply not credible.

via The Real Reasons Conservatives Oppose Gingrich « Commentary Magazine.

Then again, I worry that #1 and #3 would also apply to Mitt Romney!  And #1 and maybe #3 would apply to Rick Santorum.  And at least #1 would apply to Ron Paul.   I remain undecided, but depressed.

Newt vs. Reagan

Newt Gingrich is always wrapping himself in the mantle of Ronald Reagan, but at the time, when Newt was a Congressman, he was best known for criticizing Reagan’s policies and for putting down the president.  So says Reagan administration official Elliott Abrams, who was there:

Here at home, we faced vicious criticism from leading Democrats — Ted Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, Jim Wright, Tip O’Neill, and many more — who used every trick in the book to stop Reagan by denying authorities and funds to these efforts. On whom did we rely up on Capitol Hill? There were many stalwarts: Henry Hyde, elected in 1974; Dick Cheney, elected in 1978, the same year as Gingrich; Dan Burton and Connie Mack, elected in 1982; and Tom DeLay, elected in 1984, were among the leaders.

But not Newt Gingrich. He voted with the caucus, but his words should be remembered, for at the height of the bitter struggle with the Democratic leadership Gingrich chose to attack . . . Reagan.

The best examples come from a famous floor statement Gingrich made on March 21, 1986. This was right in the middle of the fight over funding for the Nicaraguan contras; the money had been cut off by Congress in 1985, though Reagan got $100 million for this cause in 1986. Here is Gingrich: “Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire’s challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic change in strategy will continue to fail. . . . President Reagan is clearly failing.” Why? This was due partly to “his administration’s weak policies, which are inadequate and will ultimately fail”; partly to CIA, State, and Defense, which “have no strategies to defeat the empire.” But of course “the burden of this failure frankly must be placed first on President Reagan.” Our efforts against the Communists in the Third World were “pathetically incompetent,” so those anti-Communist members of Congress who questioned the $100 million Reagan sought for the Nicaraguan “contra” rebels “are fundamentally right.” Such was Gingrich’s faith in President Reagan that in 1985, he called Reagan’s meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich.”

Gingrich scorned Reagan’s speeches, which moved a party and then a nation, because “the president of the United States cannot discipline himself to use the correct language.” In Afghanistan, Reagan’s policy was marked by “impotence [and] incompetence.” Thus Gingrich concluded as he surveyed five years of Reagan in power that “we have been losing the struggle with the Soviet empire.” Reagan did not know what he was doing, and “it is precisely at the vision and strategy levels that the Soviet empire today is superior to the free world.”

There are two things to be said about these remarks. The first is that as a visionary, Gingrich does not have a very impressive record. The Soviet Union was beginning to collapse, just as Reagan had believed it must. The expansion of its empire had been thwarted. The policies Gingrich thought so weak and indeed “pathetic” worked, and Ronald Reagan turned out to be a far better student of history and politics than Gingrich.

The second point to make is that Gingrich made these assaults on the Reagan administration just as Democratic attacks were heating up unmercifully. Far from becoming a reliable voice for Reagan policy and the struggle against the Soviets, Gingrich took on Reagan and his administration.

via Gingrich and Reagan – Elliott Abrams – National Review Online.

Why the “open marriage” charge makes Newt more popular

The rumor on the Drudge Report was that Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife would come out with revelations that would sink his campaign.  It didn’t work that way.  Her interview, along with Newt’s smackdown of CNN’s John King for bringing it up to lead off the last debate, seems to have created a backlash of sympathy.

The biggest revelation was that he had asked his wife for an “open marriage.”  But he didn’t exactly say that.

Marianne Gingrich told The Post that when her husband told her he was leaving, “He said the problem with me was I wanted him all to myself. I said, ‘That’s what marriage is.’ Of Callista, he said, ‘She doesn’t care what I do.’ ”

“He was asking me for an open marriage,’’ Marianne Gingrich said, “and I wouldn’t do it.” She said Gingrich already saw Callista as his first lady, though, telling Marianne, “In a few years I’m going to run for president. She’s going to help me become president.”

Still bad and embarrassing to listen to, but the issue is old-fashioned adultery rather than 1970s-style open marriage, as such.  The above is quoted from an article in the Washington Post about how women are not being particularly sympathetic to Mrs. Gingrich #2:

If anything, Republican women interviewed here today seemed even more supportive than men of the way Newt Gingrich handled debate moderator John King’s question about ex-wife Marianne’s allegation that the GOP presidential candidate had asked her for an open marriage as their union was falling apart in 1999.

They definitely expressed less sympathy for Marianne, Gingrich’s second wife, who told ABC News and The Washington Post that her husband had wanted her to “share” him with Callista, now his third wife, as they were breaking up. Several women noted that since Gingrich was also married, to his first wife, Jackie, when Marianne got involved with him, his infidelity should not have come as a surprise to her.

Kathleen Parker offers an explanation of why digging up transgressions and taking them public can make the accused more popular, as it did also with Bill Clinton:

The more you pick on a person for human failings with which all can identify, the more likely you will create sympathy rather than antipathy, especially if that individual has been forthright in his confession and penitent for his transgression, as Gingrich has been. He was ahead of the curveball this time, with nothing left to tell or for his aggrieved former wife to expose. Thus, her interview and the King question had the feel not of revelation but of a political hit aided and abetted by a salacious press.

Even Bill Clinton, who was less forthcoming and therefore, at least initially, less sympathetic, came to be viewed as a victim following months of investigation and the airing of sordid details only voyeurs could enjoy. Starr, as King, was merely doing his job, yet he became less likable than Clinton among Regular Joes watching television in their kitchens. However nobly Republicans may have considered their mission, everyday Americans — particularly men — saw persecution.

A Catholic friend captures the operative sentiment in terms Gingrich surely would appreciate. When she sees someone succumb to temptation or betray some other human frailty, she says: “I have those weeds in my garden.”

To err is human; to forgive divine. We like that way of thinking because we all need others’ forgiveness. When Gingrich turned to his audience and said that we all know pain — we all know people who have suffered pain — he instantly morphed from sinner to savior, the redeemer in chief. He correctly counted on the empathy of his fellow man, if not necessarily womankind, and won the moment.

But a moment is just that, and projection of the sort experienced by the Charleston, S.C., audience can be fraught with peril. Over-identification clouds judgment, and, though we are all sinners, we are not all running for president of the United States.

via Newt Gingrich and the forgiveness ploy – The Washington Post.

I appreciate all of that.  And I know very well that Christianity is about sin (from which no one is immune) but also redemption and forgiveness.  But I’m still bothered by Newt’s manifest character flaws.  Is that wrong of me?

Newt takes South Carolina in a landslide

Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary in overwhelming fashion.  Now each of the four contenders left standing has won a primary except for Ron Paul.

The South Carolina primary results:

Newt Gingrich 243,398      40.4% Winner

Mitt Romney 167,957          27.9%

Rick Santorum 102,213       17.0%

Ron Paul 78,093                   13.0%

Others 10,772                          1.8%

via South Carolina primary results, visits and political geography – 2012 Campaign Republican Primary Tracker – The Washington Post – The Washington Post.

Gingrich rises, falls, then rises again.  So is he now the alternative to Mitt Romney?

I know that Ron Paul is the alternative with the greater difference, but is there a path to his nomination?  He isn’t likely to do well in Florida, the retirement capital of the nation, with his opposition to Social Security.  That’s the next contest, January 31.  Where can Paul win?

Who do you think would be better, Mitt or Newt?

Big campaign developments

Texas Governor Rick Perry has dropped out of the GOP presidential race.  He endorsed Newt Gingrich.  So did Sarah Palin. Ex-candidate Herman Cain, however, endorsed “the people.

Gingrich’s former wife is saying that he wanted “an open marriage” even as he was making speeches about family values.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses.  A miscount had given the victory to Mitt Romney, but it turns out that Santorum actually had 34 more votes.

So where does all of this leave us?  If enough candidates drop out, might voters coalesce around someone other than Romney?  If so, who?  Ron Paul is, of course, a major alternative.

Who do you think would be better–or worse–Gingrich or Santorum?

More ballot problems for GOP candidates

I have been complaining that only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified to get on the Virginia primary ballot.  But candidates, except for those two, are also having ballot problems in Ohio, Illinois, D.C., Missouri, and Arizona:

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who came within a few votes of winning the Iowa caucuses, didn’t get on the ballot in Virginia or the District of Columbia. His campaign also filed incomplete slates of delegates in Illinois and Ohio, which could limit his ability to win delegates in those key states.

Virginia has been a tough ballot to crack for several GOP candidates because the state requires campaigns to collect signatures from at least 10,000 registered voters. Romney and Paul were the only ones who made the ballot for the March 6 primary.

Perry sued, and was later joined in the lawsuit by Gingrich, Huntsman and Santorum. But on Friday, a federal judge in Richmond refused to add them to the ballot, saying the candidates should have challenged Virginia’s primary qualifying rules earlier.

Santorum is the only major candidate who will be left off the ballot in the District of Columbia primary April 3, said Paul Craney, executive director of the DC Republican Committee. The party provides two ways to get on the ballot: Pay $10,000, or pay $5,000 and collect signatures from 296 registered Republicans in the heavily Democratic capital city. . . .

Huntsman, the former Utah governor, failed to get on the ballot in Arizona or Illinois.

The requirements to get on the GOP ballot in Arizona are pretty easy — all you have to do is fill out a two-page form. Twenty-three candidates managed to do it properly, so they will be on the ballot for the state’s Feb. 28 primary.

Huntsman, however, was left off the ballot because his filing had a photocopied signature and wasn’t notarized, said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. . . .

Gingrich, the former House speaker, didn’t make it on the ballot for primaries in Missouri or Virginia, though he has joined the lawsuit to get on the Virginia ballot and Missouri won’t award any delegates based on its Feb. 7 primary. Instead, Missouri Republicans will hold caucuses March 17.

Perry, the Texas governor, made the ballot in Illinois, but he will only be eligible to win one delegate in the state’s March 20 primary — a contest in which 54 delegates will be up for grabs. . . .

Illinois has a unique way of awarding delegates to candidates. The winner of the state’s GOP primary doesn’t necessarily get any delegates. Instead, Republicans will vote for the actual delegates, who are listed separately on the ballot but are identified by the candidate they support.

Each of the state’s 18 congressional districts will elect three delegates, for a total of 54. To appear on the ballot as a delegate, candidates had to collect signatures from at least 600 registered voters in the district where they are running.

Only one Perry delegate filed signatures by the deadline, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Gingrich, Paul and Romney filed full slates, while only 44 Santorum delegates filed signatures.

Ron Michaelson, who served as executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections for nearly 30 years, said he doesn’t remember presidential candidates having these kinds of problems in previous elections.

“They’re concentrating so heavily on the early states, devoting so many resources there that they’re not looking down the road far enough,” said Michaelson, now a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield.

via GOP candidates fail to get on some primary ballots | NewsOK.com.

Huntsman, since this article was written, has dropped out of the race.  Since the presidential race is not a popularity contest but, you know, an election, shouldn’t some of these others who can’t get on ballots drop out too?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X